Archivists and Changing Social and Information Spaces: A Continuum Approach to Recordkeeping and Archiving in Online Cultures

  • Frank Upward
  • Sue McKemmish
  • Barbara Reed


This article looks for creative ways of addressing archiving and recordkeeping processes within the continuum of recorded information being formed in our online cultures. It is concerned with looking beyond the complexities of the social spaces and communal actions that form archives, seeking patterns that can help us reorder the relationship between communities and the way they record and store information about their transactions. The infinitely expanding, and (given the multiplicity of points of observation of that expansion) the indefinitely divisible continuum of recorded information that is the larger web sphere is a new zone of practice involving changes in the delivery of recorded information. To evolve with modern information ecologies, however, we need new forms of consciousness, new ways of viewing our functions and new tactics, structures, and strategies. This article will explore this new zone using theoretical perspectives and case studies, examining the challenge to traditional forms of archival access posed by continuum theory, WikiLeaks, and the formation of archives in Indigenous communities.


Les auteurs explorent des façons créatives d’aborder les processus d’archivage et de gestion de l’information dans le contexte du continuum de l’information qui est documenté et généré à l’intérieur de nos cultures en ligne. Ils cherchent à regarder au-delà de la complexité des espaces sociaux et des actions collectives qui créent des archives, afin de trouver les constantes qui peuvent nous permettre de réorganiser les relations entre les communautés et la façon dont elles documentent et sauvegardent l’information liée à leurs transactions. Le continuum de l’information documentée qu’est le Web est en expansion à l’infini et, compte tenu de la multiplicité des points d’observation de cette expansion, il est aussi divisible à l’infini. Il s’agit d’une nouvelle zone de pratique qui implique des changements dans la prestation de l’information. Afin de pouvoir évoluer au même rythme que l’écologie informatique, toutefois, nous avons besoin de nouvelles formes de conscience, de nouvelles façons de percevoir nos fonctions, ainsi que de nouvelles tactiques, structures et stratégies. Les auteurs examinent cette nouvelle zone en se servant de perspectives théoriques et d’études de cas qui étudient les défis posés aux formes traditionnelles de l’accès aux archives par la théorie du continuum, Wikileaks, et la création des archives des communautés autochtones.


Author Biographies

Frank Upward

Frank Upward, PhD, is a former senior Lecturer at Monash University, where he designed and conducted courses in archives and records management, information management, recordkeeping systems design, and knowledge management. Prior to holding that position, he had extensive experience in the workplace in all these areas. He is now semi-retired but remains active. He is a principal researcher in the Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics. As a writer he is following up on his work on the relationship between recordkeeping and the operation of communities as well as the significance of continuum theory to archival formation processes. He has a number of works on these matters in the pipeline.

Sue McKemmish

Sue McKemmish, PhD, is Chair of Archival Systems, Monash University, Director of the Monash University Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics, and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Information Technology. Sue is engaged in major research initiatives relating to the use of metadata in archives and records systems, information resource discovery, Indigenous archiving, and the development of more inclusive archival education programs to meet the needs of diverse communities. She directs the postgraduate teaching programs in records and archives at Monash, has published extensively on recordkeeping in society, records continuum theory, recordkeeping metadata, and is a Laureate of the Australian Society of Archivists.

Barbara Reed

Barbara Reed is a practicing consultant in the field of records, information, and archives management as Director, Recordkeeping Innovation Pty Ltd, an Australian-based company delivering recordkeeping, consulting, and training services globally. With a background in archives administration, long practice as a practitioner and consultant in the field, Barbara’s interest is in transforming recordkeeping into the digital world, and aligning recordkeeping with business. She has been a teacher and researcher at Monash University, written extensively on recordkeeping issues, and has been active in standards development work both locally and internationally.

How to Cite
Upward, Frank, Sue McKemmish, and Barbara Reed. 2011. “Archivists and Changing Social and Information Spaces: A Continuum Approach to Recordkeeping and Archiving in Online Cultures”. Archivaria 72 (December), 197-237.